© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2007
Glossary of Terms
Because Dooyeweerd's philosophy begins with the idea of a supratemporal totality, he then needs to show how individual things and events are individuated from out of that totality. See my article: "Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism"
Dooyeweerd says that we do not experience separate things in naive experience. Even to focus on an individual linden tree is an abstraction:
The isolation of the individual is already a theoretical act! Naive experience does not separate a thing from its context with other beings (NC III, 60). Thus it is incorrect to say that the pre-theoretical is directed to the individual and the theoretical directed to the universal.
An individual 'thing' is only a relative unity in a multiplicity of functions (NC III, 65). Temporal individual subjectivity cannot really exist unless it is bound to a supra-individual order (NC I, 493).
In his last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata 40 (1975), 83-101, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between aspects and functions. It is not the aspects that are individualized in individuality structures–otherwise they would cease to exist. It is the empirical functions of the aspects that are individualized.
Individuality comes from out of the supratemporal root. Our individuality, as well as the individuality of the cosmos comes out of it. This religious root differentiates and unfolds itself (NC II, 7, 8, 561). All individuality is rooted in the religious centre of our temporal world: all temporal individuality can only be an expression of the fullness of individuality inherent in this centre (NC II, 418).
When we analyze this passage in detail, we see that individuality is inherent in the experiencing subjectivity within the temporal world. And Dooyeweerd emphasizes that the selfhood is individual in time, but supra-individual in its root. That is to say, in the individual I-ness it points beyond the individual ego toward that which makes the whole of mankind spiritually one in root in creation, fall and redemption:
Our supratemporal selfhood experiences its individual existence within time:
Other passages confirm that the supratemporal reality is not individual, but that rather it is the root of individualization:
What is noteworthy here is that Dooyeweerd uses the prism analogy to show not only the different modal aspects of our life, but also of individuality itself, and individuality structures from a central unity. It is the individuality structures of our bodily existence that are differentiated from the spiritual root-unity. Insofar as we have a body, we are both in time and out of time. Our bodies have a structure of individuality, too, like other things. But these structures of individuality are differentiated in time. Baader makes a similar point: insofar as we are both within and outside of time, we are a 'versetzt' or displaced being.
Dooyeweerd criticizes Rickert's view of individuality, where the 'individual' is that which occurs only once in this definite place in (sensory) space and time. In this view of individuality, individuality is an "empirical uniqueness related to [super-sensory] values." Dooyeweerd says that if individuality really belongs to the sensory matter of experience, it can have no functions in the modal meaning of the law-spheres (NC II, 420-21). How Dooyeweerd's view of individuality differs from such a sensory limitation has not been sufficiently explored by reformational philosophy. It is partially explained by his objection to the individualistic nominalistic trend in modern sociology:
In contrast to this individualism, Dooyeweerd refers with approval to Kuyper's view that "Individuals do not exist in themselves; there only exist membra corporis generis humani." (NC III, 248).
Dooyeweerd criticizes any view according to which the supratemporal is itself individual. Such a view of individuality is based on an irrationalistic personalism:
Dooyeweerd condemns an individualistic view of the Self as due to an irrationalistic personalism. He criticizes the Renaissance idea of personality, which he says was a secularization of the Christian idea of regeneration:
Our own human individuality is given in time:
The original Dutch is even stronger:
The individuality of things cannot be comprehended by human experience (II, 488). The temporal non-modal unity and identity of things cannot be grasped in a theoretical concept. This unity and identity has its foundation in cosmic time, which alone makes all experience and theoretical thought possible.” (NC III 75).
Baader, like Dooyeweerd, distinguishes between our individual ego and our central I-ness. There is a distinction between my true self, and my egoity (Ich-Ichheit) (Werke II, 358; Fermenta Book V, s. 26). Baader also says that the root of creation should not be interpreted individualistically. Each individual being is like a central point, receiving from all the other beings outside of it, from its infinite periphery that constitutes his horizon, all that it can receive, and sends in turn all that he can send. But for all the different particular centers, there is a general center, and a principal ray uniting each the first to the second. All the force of the influences of each individual on the others is channeled in the ray towards the center and then sent again to the points. Everything that is emanated from God is directed eternally towards Him, and nothing perishes of what He has expressed, and He is all in all (1 Cor. 15:28) (Werke XI, 42).
Baader also emphasizes that the particular centers in the temporal world are all interconnected. All of the universe as center and as point of beginning and endpoint; all receive influences and all acts. Interdependence is the grand law of the universe (Susini 107).
It is worth pointing out here that one of Dooyeweerd's disagreements with Vollenhoven concerned the nature of individuality.
Is the issue of individuality also the basis of some fears of panentheism? Do we want to maintain our individuality even against God, and not recognize His immanence, and that we live, work and have our being in Him?
Steen reports a discussion he had with Dooyeweerd (p. 85). Dooyeweerd said that faith turns into sight and therefore faith passes away. Steen then asked him how it could be possible to conceive of a resurrected man without all the functions and without the law spheres continuing to hold. Dooyeweerd did not give a reply that Steen deemed satisfactory. But Steen's question reminds me of the question by the Sadducees as to what would happen in the afterlife to the woman who had seven husbands in this life. Jesus' reply is that "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Jesus says that the Sadducees were in error, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God (Matt. 22:29,30). Dooyeweerd just could not respond on the level that Steen was asking, because for Dooyeweerd, salvation is not individualistic, but in the root, just as the fall was from the root. As for the married woman, Dooyeweerd says that the conjugal partners being interwoven for all eternity in the new root of life, Christ (Steen 219).
Dooyeweerd's view that the supratemporal is not individual is also an affront to New Age types who think that they can experience their own individual mystical consciousness. This is a narcissistic view of mysticism. See Ken Wilber's novel Boomeritis for some similar criticisms of narcissistic individualism.
Dooyeweerd’s mysticism, as I interpret it, overcomes the limited individualistic view of ourselves in favour of our supra-individual and fulfilled being that is related (really and ontically related) to temporal beings that find their root in us (and so are mediated by us) and to God, whose image we are. This meaning of image of God explains why the human ego can be nothing in itself as an autonomous being. The image of God is related to Christ’s self-surrender (NC II, 149). Dooyeweerd says that even love of our neighbour is nothing but the love of God in His image, expressed in ourselves as well as in our fellow-man (NC II, 155).
Revised Sept 25/07